What do you get when you combine Pac-Man and Street Fighter? Geon: Emotions. Every game is a 1-on-1 contest to see which player can pick up all of his emotes (pac-pellets, but without the copyright infringement) and get back to the goal five times. So far it sounds like a race, and – in part – it is, but each player can also pick up power-ups to interfere with his opponent’s dot gathering. The whole package sports a very trippy look, and the game is fun to play – especially in multiplayer.
Geon started life as a PSP title, and it shows. It’s very vibrant, feels like it would control well with the PSP’s directional pad, and it fits with the PSP’s great stable of puzzlers (Exit, Loco Roco, and Lumines, for example). I don’t know who decided to shift development to XBLA, but they were right to do it as the multiplayer absolutely makes the game. It’s much more satisfying to lay a well-placed trap when you can hear your opponent’s reaction to it, and victory is always sweeter when taken from a real person instead of the computer.
Geon features several modes. There’s multiplayer duel, which is just like it sounds. Two player compete to collect their emotes and score their goals the fastest. Each picks a character that is strong to only one of the game’s power-ups (Envy is good with the vacuum, Rapture is good with the speed boost, etc.) and the two go at it. Each player owns one side of the field, his opponent owns the other, and each player can see what the other is doing because the playing field is translucent. At first, I thought this was just a nice graphical touch, but it’s actually very strategic. If my opponent has no emotes on his side of the board then I shouldn’t waste my trap on this platform. Geon‘s single-player mode is the same as its multiplayer duel mode with your XBL opponent replaced by the computer.
Multiplayer boasts two additional modes: last man standing and team duel. These two types are only playable over Xbox Live, but they’re a blast to play. Last man standing is a free-for-all type where players are eliminated as they fail to score goals (think musical chairs) while team dual is a 2v2 variant of the standard duel. There is one annoyance to be found in multiplayer, however, and that is that inviting friends to play must always be done by opening up the guide, navigating to your friends list, and inviting them to the game. Most other games have implemented a call straight to the friends list, and its absence here – although not crucial to the game’s enjoyment – is obvious and annoying.
Single-player isn’t just a watered-down version of the multiplayer either. There are also two additional single-player game types: time attack and minigame. Time attack is single-player duel where the focus isn’t just to win the bout but to win it in a preset amount of time. It’s a change to be thinking about both how to keep the computer from screwing you up and the most efficient way to collect emotes and get back to the goal. Despite not being first on the menu, this is the meat of the single-player game. Minigames are unlocked by doing well in time attack, and they are puzzle levels that feel like trippy 3D Pac-Man. These levels are frustrating, but there’s an achievement at the end for those of you looking for additional GamerScore.
Geon is exactly what XBLA needs: an original, innovative game that takes advantage of the Live service. It’s fun, it can be played in short bursts, and with a price point of only $10, it’s hard to pass up. Come on, you’ve all played Tetris before, but how many of you can say you’ve played competitive Pac-Man on acid?